Firing of Md. officer for false report, lying to supervisor supported by police trial board
The department accused Baltimore County Officer Brittani Elmco of submitting a shoplifting report with inaccuracies and misrepresenting facts to her supervisor
By Cassidy Jensen
BALTIMORE — A Baltimore County Police trial board agreed with the department’s decision to fire an officer for submitting a false report and lying to her boss.
The department accused Officer Brittani Elmco, who joined Baltimore County Police in 2017, of submitting a shoplifting report containing inaccuracies and misrepresenting facts to her supervisor, retired Cpl. Daniel Topper.
Tuesday’s trial board, a panel of county police officers who review cases when officers appeal internal disciplinary decisions, was the first so far this year to impose termination for an officer facing misconduct allegations.
Beginning next month, the disciplinary process for Baltimore County officers will change as civilians join trial boards for the first time under state reforms. A new civilian committee, rather than police investigators, will also make initial findings of misconduct and recommend discipline using a statewide disciplinary matrix.
Elmco is the fourth county officer to go before a trial board this year. No hearings happened between November 2021 and April 2023.
A trial board in May found Officer David J. Folderauer Jr. did not violate department use-of-force policy when he punched a man in the head about a dozen times. That board also cleared Officer David B. Moser for hitting the same man with his service weapon during the 2020 arrest.
Also in May, a county attorney and a different trial board agreed to dismiss a charge against Folderauer for striking a drunk man in the head with a 12-inch department-issued flashlight in 2021 after the officer’s attorney argued evidence was not properly turned over to the defense.
County police did not provide details on an April 3 hearing, but no officer has been found guilty by a trial board this year of a use-of-force violation, a department spokesperson said.
The police department has not yet fulfilled Maryland Public Information Act requests, filed in May by The Baltimore Sun, for files and body-camera footage related to the previous 2023 trial boards.
Elmco’s hearing before a board of three officers began Tuesday morning. The department initially recommended termination as punishment for both violations, according to a department settlement offer found in state court records.
On Oct. 16, 2020, Elmco visited Geresbeck’s Food Market on Eastern Boulevard in Middle River to investigate a reported theft of crab legs from the seafood section.
In a report she submitted two days later, Elmco described a store employee as “anonymous,” though she admitted in a later interview that the worker had given his name. She also wrote that she had captured the store’s surveillance footage on her body-worn camera. A subsequent police report she filed added new details about the theft and her investigation.
Her supervisor, Topper, called her into a meeting Oct. 18, 2020 with a sergeant and asked if Elmco had reviewed her body-camera footage before writing her report. Elmco said she had, the two men said, according to internal documents in court records.
The footage they watched showed her camera had fallen out of position and failed to record the store surveillance video. In an internal affairs interview, Elmco denied saying that she had previously watched her body cam footage, according to a transcript in court records.
Her attorney, Chaz Ball, told the trial board the officer made unintentional errors in her report and was confused when she told Topper she had already watched the camera footage. “She was just trying to do her job,” Ball said. “This is a training opportunity.”
He also said Elmco, who is diagnosed with ADHD, was struggling to focus during a period when her doctors advised her to stop taking her medication.
“Difficulties writing a report are one thing; these are just outright misrepresentations,” said Assistant County Attorney Lisa J. Smith, who acted as the prosecutor for the department.
The board chaired by Maj. Douglas Irwin unanimously found Elmco guilty on both counts Tuesday afternoon. It ruled she should lose three days of leave for the inaccurate report and be terminated for misrepresenting facts, penalties in line with the department’s disciplinary matrix.
Irwin said the board’s decision is final, though Elmco can appeal it in county circuit court. Elmco and her attorney declined to comment Tuesday.
Department spokesperson Trae Corbin said Elmco’s case is “still being processed,” including the recommendation for termination. Corbin declined to say if Elmco was still employed by the department Wednesday.
Some officers testified on Elmco’s behalf as character witnesses, describing her as a hardworking and enthusiastic officer who struggled with writing reports. Others, including a former supervisor, described her as unwilling to take responsibility and emphasized the importance of integrity for police officers.
“No state’s attorney in the world is going to sit there and take your testimony if you have issues with deception,” said Sgt. Robert Huncher, Elmco’s former supervisor who testified during the penalty portion of the hearing.
Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger said Wednesday that if Elmco had been called to testify in court, his office would have told defense counsel she was being investigated for an integrity violation.
Elmco appeared as one of two dozen officers on an Oct. 27, 2021 version of the Baltimore County state’s attorney’s “do not call list,” with her name under the heading “current sworn officers pending an integrity violation.”
Baltimore Sun reporter Dillon Mullan contributed to this article.